This week we are highlighting a special ‘graduate’ from Mid-State who is now giving her time to help others. Lina Chung currently co-leads the Book Club at Mid-State; the club is reading A New Friend for Jonathan James from the Whatif Monster Chapter Book Series by Michelle Nelson-Schmidt in anticipation of our exciting author visit next week on February 18. We invite community members to join us for this live storytime and fun, family-oriented evening.

Lina moved to the United States from South Korea ten years ago when her husband decided to earn his Ph.D. from Penn State University. Upon arrival, she had an inadequate understanding of the English language; thus, she began her journey to fluency at Mid-State Literacy Council. Her drive to improve her English came from everyday activities that she could not perform such as eating out at a restaurant or participating in parent-teacher conferences at her children’s school.

Although she came to Mid-State to learn English, the setting became more to Lina than merely a means of improving her communication skills. She stated that she has met some of her closest friends here and even gained a better understanding about cultures around the world. Having benefited so much from the program, she decided to give back. She brought her language skills full circle by becoming a co-instructor and has helped teach for several semesters. In this role, she shares both her knowledge of language and the insights she learned from her own experience.

Lina believes that her history as a student has given her a unique perspective as a co-instructor. She elaborated that she understands the unfamiliar situations that her students are immersed in because she went through them herself, and she likes to incorporate her own tips and tricks tailored to the student and their specific needs. How does she do this? She does her own individual research on the cultural background of her students in order to get a better grasp on them and then allows her students to discuss their own culture and how it compares to American culture. Lina’s success as a student and a co-instructor, of course, did not come without significant challenges. The assimilation into American culture is not an easy task, but Lina has pushed through many challenges to get there while simultaneously preserving her own culture at home with Korean food, the Korean language, and Korean traditions and holidays. She stated that learning the language itself was definitely the most difficult part of moving here and the barrier it imposed required patience and kindness from native speakers. Mid-State Literacy Council has helped to provide confidence in Lina’s skills which has inspired her to instill that same confidence in others who are experiencing situations she had herself.

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